Sunday, 10 December 2017

new glasses

These are my new glasses. The prescription hasn't changed since the last pair, but these new ones aren't covered in tiny scratches and thus they do not produce what I describe to myself, and now also to you, as "the Middlemarch effect".*

 Much as I dig being able to take part in looking at things that are happening more than four metres away, I am not at all sure about these frames. I mean really. Look at my nose in that photograph. It looks like it's joined to the glasses and not to my face right? I'm reluctantly coming to the conclusion that choosing them was another bad life decision. Why not cram in a few more in 2017's dying days, eh? What happened was, I spent a very long time choosing a pair of sunglass frames and in so doing became extremely bored, then for the normal glasses I just picked the first set that sort of seemed okay, neglecting to check that they didn't make me look like Woody Allen, which they do. Then when I went back to pick up the finished glasses I saw another set of frames which made me look like....I don't know, someone far nicer to look at than me. When I was about sixteen a garbage collector in a pub in Footscray spent several hours asserting that I looked like Belinda Carlisle (it worked), so fine, let's go with Belinda Carlisle as the person who the frames which I didn't notice the first time made me look like. I just think these are too dark for my skin and also, right now more than ever, for numerous reasons, I don't want to look any more like Woody Allen than is avoidable.

Dylan Farrow: Why has the #metoo revolution spared Woody Allen? 

It feels like Woody Allen is emblematic of this whole astonishing / not astonishing moment. It's an astonishing watershed, this opening of the floodgates of testimony, astonishing that it's being said, written, published, shared, listened to, taken seriously, and most astonishing of all, consequences are happening. What is overwhelming about what's happening is not the scope and depth of the problem revealed, or even its revelation, but the fact that it is suddenly being acknowledged, heard, not ignored, not responded to with collective denial. It was a phenomenon that could not be known, and now...it's known.  Do you get what I mean?

Think what you like about Dylan Farrow's allegations (FWIW I believe her, just the same as I believe any person, woman or man, who puts herself or himself through the devastation of speaking out about sexual assault) but there is also the incontrovertible fact of Soon-yi. Allen did that, and there was a scandal, but it got shut down and he continued to work, with vast numbers of presumably not-monstrous people, in an industry where reputation and who you associate yourself with, matters. Some of these people I suppose were happy enough to look the other way, not to know and not to think about it very much,  some accepted and tolerated him willingly, and some were more or less gaslit into working with him (if you haven't read Ellen Page's Facebook post about her reflections on working with Allen and other more openly predatory Hollywood figures, you should).  What makes Woody Allen (and Roman Polanski in a different way) emblematic is that everyone knew about him, and so there is no "revelation". It's a planetary perspective shift. What caused it? For some time now, we've had the legal framework outlawing sexual violence and sexual harrassment, we've had a culture that acknowledged the desirability of safety for women and children, and their vulnerability - I don't think it was all lip service, there have been genuine efforts to eliminate sexual violence and to punish it when it happens. But they haven't worked. Now this has happened. Personally, for reasons I needn't go into, I'm frightened and upset by the uncontrolled explosion of open acknowledgement of the harm done by endemic misogyny and rape culture. I was beyond horrified when everyone began to write #metoo on social media. Why rub our own fucking noses in it, again? But a couple of months into this thing, it's clearly not just a flash in the pan. Hence the urgency of Dylan Farrow's question. Allen is the epitome of the abuser at whose crimes everyone looked the other way: not just powerful associates or employees of his who worked to keep it a secret, but all of us. What will we do now?

I haven't wanted to see Woody Allen's new movies for many years, but, like the very articulate but also perhaps not entirely certain of her own perspective author of this extremely interesting essay published in the Paris Review a few weeks ago, I'm not sure I could give up the beauty and delight of some of his older work, which is woven through my life in too many ways to recount here & now, even if I was clear about what purpose would be served by such a renunciation. (The tag-line of this blog is drawn from his book Without Feathers) But it's also very apparent that the machinery of denial operating in Hollywood also operates in the audience's consumption of the work, and therefore, it also contributes to the overall quality of the response the art elicits from me. And presumably, because that response became a part of me and how I intersected with other works, other situations, other people, it's embedded in there too. From Claire Dederer's essay:

I took the fucking of Soon-Yi as a terrible betrayal of me personally. When I was young, I felt like Woody Allen. I intuited or believed he represented me on-screen. He was me. This is one of the peculiar aspects of his genius—this ability to stand in for the audience. The identification was exacerbated by the seeming powerlessness of his usual on-screen persona: skinny as a kid, short as a kid, confused by an uncaring, incomprehensible world. (Like Chaplin before him.) I felt closer to him than seems reasonable for a little girl to feel about a grown-up male filmmaker. In some mad way, I felt he belonged to me. I had always seen him as one of us, the powerless. Post-Soon-Yi, I saw him as a predator.
That uber-humanity of Allen's, so brilliant, so light, so perfectly expressed in movie after movie, is causally connected to his monstrousness, and our response to him mirrors that monstrosity. Perhaps. There is a lot more thinking and especially reading to do as this thing continues to unfold. Just today I read this wonderful essay, which takes the analysis a leap further on from the Paris Review article. I need to take my time over this. It's difficult and it's important to get it right.

I hope you are doing okay and taking care of yourself xxx






* There cannot be one single middle-aged literary studies person with poor eyesight who doesn't think of this passage when trying to drive at night, or trying to see to the end of the pier while hanging around the docks at midnight in a heavy fog.

1 comment:

elsewhere said...

Fabulous post! I think you look fine with the dark glasses frames. I avoided the whole huge black nerd glasses thing because I felt swamped by them, as someone with fair skin and small facial features, so I know what you mean.

I've been musing about why now with the sexual harassment furore, especially since I was very aware of these issues during the late 80s and 90s (basically when I joined the workforce--I don't think I had a job in which I wasn't harassed somewhere along the line between the ages of 19 and 38). There was plenty of education around sexual harassment in the 90s, certainly in the public service (which didn't stop it from happening). I can only put the current furore down to the ubiquity of social media, as a positive reflex of pile-on or call-out culture.